Let’s Band Together

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I was 11 years old. I was a cheerleader. It had been a great football game that Saturday afternoon and we were on our way home. I was a happy six grader full of achievements and good friends. I grew up in a Ohio Valley steel town with of all types of immigrants and religions, but I didn’t know prejudice, none of us did. We never thought about our parents bank accounts or status. We were all friends and liked each other because we were classmates, we were neighbors, we were girlfriends.

My emotional slate was clean. Every small dream I had was realized. Every goal I wanted was achieved. I loved my parents. I loved my brother. I loved my friends. I saw no fences and I knew no fences. The meaning of hate and envy was never a part of my life up until ‘THEN.’ And it was when after that football game on Saturday that ‘THEN’ happened and my life changed forever and my perfect childhood world came crashing down around me.

My girlfriends and I used to walk together the few blocks from Roosevelt School to our homes on LaBelle View after the football games together. One by one we would say goodbye as each girl would reach their house until the last cheerleader was left to walk a few blocks to her house. This afternoon was different though as all the girls walked me to my house first. As we were saying the cheerful goodbyes, all of the sudden one of the girls started saying mean things to me. Then a couple of the other girls chimed in while the rest stood silent looking at the sidewalk and their feet.

I think I have permanently blanked out a lot of the conversation, but words like ‘snob’, ‘stuck-up’ remained in my mind, permeated my clean slate and cracked it wide open. The pieces stuck in my throat and I remember having no response other than to turn and walk up the cement steps to our front porch and into the safety of my house.

I was stunned and heartbroken. I remember lying across my bed and crying for hours as though my life had ended. This was the worst thing that ever happened to me in my life since I had been on this planet. I was so humiliated that I couldn’t even share my pain with my parents. I suffered in silence. I felt my life was over.

I am a firm believer that mind and body work together to keep us healthy. So it is of no surprise that a few months after this incident of embarrassment and abandonment by those I thought were my good friends that I became very ill. Diagnosed with rheumatic fever I was bedridden for four months. This was the pendulum swing in my life. I returned to school a shy and introverted girl, never in my teens to recapture the self-esteem that was broken and beaten down by my small group of friends that I loved.

I have since shared my story with several of my close friends and at least two of them have had similar experiences as young girls whose lives have been altered by what we now call ‘bullying.’

It’s amazing, although we’ve matured and most of us have had great achievements on our own since leaving the torturous girls behind in their small dust, the scars remain.

I understand. I really understand every time I read a tragic story of a young person reacting to being bullied. And of course today it’s so much worse because of the cyber bullying that is so easy to do. It is so easy to destroy a teenage psyche because they’re thin and fragile and not yet hardened to the reality of life and have strong self-esteem.

So today I was especially delighted when I discovered that my cousin’s daughter is involved in a program, Lets Band Togetherto help stop bullying.

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Lets give peace and civility toward one another a chance.

Copyright Sandra Hart 2014. All rights reserved.

Facebook Friends: I Know You-I Met You Not

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It is no hidden fact that social media has changed the world, has changed our lives and how we connect to people. I have been thinking about this lately, and more so after I recently posted a blog regarding Kosovo and my son’s band tour there in 2000.

I know there are people who have hundreds of friends on Facebook, but I am very selective about whom I bring into my inner social circle. I have no strangers within that group, but I do have a few people that are connected to me by others and I also have a few people who I’ve known, or feel that I have met, because the connection through mail, email and then Facebook has been consistent throughout the years.

One Facebook friend in particular I have electronically known for 14 years, but never have met. His name is Bill Putnam, a photographer and journalist whom I first interacted with when he took pictures of and also wrote a very nice article about the band Tonic’s stop at Camp Bondsteel where he was stationed in 2000.

Since the lead singer/songwriter of that band just happens to be my son, Emerson Hart, the friendship began when Bill offered to send me some of the pictures he had taken of Emerson and the band during their visit during their performance at Bondsteel. Ever since that kind gesture, from time to time, I have been in touch with Bill, following him through the various phases of his life and career, both in and out of service for our country.

Bill has evolved from email-sometimes-friend to Facebook friend and has attended a few Tonic Concerts and generously taken pictures he has shared with this Tonic mother.

Electronically throughout the years I have witnessed him grow as a person, evolve, as my own son has done, and always enjoyed his photo journeys. I have invisibility watched him become a very competent photojournalist who is not just satisfied with standing still in his craft, but always experimenting, learning and challenging himself.

From his postings I gather he likes a good beer now and then with friends, loves certain sport teams, has a good sense of family and most of all, has an eye for what we want to see in the world.

Although I may never ever meet Bill Putnam in person, (the percentage chances of that unfortunately probably are pretty high), I feel I already have had that good fortune through his photography and photo posts. Bill is not afraid to tell it like it is. He crosses the lines for us. He is an interesting and talented guy, indeed, who years ago I “met” because he was a kind enough kid to send me some photos of my son in concert at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo.

PS. You can find out more about my Facebook friend Bill Putnam at http://www.billputnam.net

Copyright Sandra Hart 2014. All Rights Reserved.
Photos Copyright Bill Putnam 2000/2014. All Rights Reserved.

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Skipping Stones

Some people like to window shop. I never was much into just looking into the windows. As far as I’m concerned, except maybe during the holidays with all the animated windows in New York City, the best part is inside the big swinging doors. Each isle, each floor is an exciting adventure. The noise, the aromas and the colors of all the merchandise – that’s part of the pleasure. Why just look at a package unopened? To me window shoppers are missing the best part.

This is true with life as well. Looking through the windows from the outside without experiencing, seeing and tasting all of the richness and excitement it brings. Not just seeing, but looking at the glass half full instead of half empty. Never failures, but challenges instead. Watching the door close behind you and stepping through to something you know will be even better.

It is said in relationships it is common for opposites to attract. My husband and I are living proof of that old adage. I can honestly say we are as different as night and day. I have lived the past 30 years married to a window shopper. His ability to live the fullness and richness of his 88 years has always been elusive to him. He has never been able to open the doors and step through to see the surprises that are inside, beyond those windows.

Until the day they died my husband’s mother and her brother both confessed that they never had a happy day in their lives. They each had the ability to dwell not on happiness, but on one misery after the other.

I have always been fascinated about whether or not we are born with a proclivity toward being happy, or not. In the book The How of Happiness by Sonya Lyubimirsky, the premise of the book is that we all have a setpoint for happiness. To override a low set point, one needs strong self-discipline. My question is, we are all unique individuals, no two of us are alike, so therefore, perhaps one’s happiness is unique unto themselves. Different set-points.

For instance, my husband’s weekend happiness is walking the dogs in the morning from Chelsea through the West Village and home again, stop and buy bagels on the way home and have coffee and bagels at the house.

On the other hand, that same journey that would bring happiness to me would be to walk the dogs from Chelsea to the Village, find a nice little outdoor coffeehouse sit and have coffee and a croissant, enjoy good conversation, watch the people walking by, and then return back to the apartment after exercise and good food and conversation.

My happiness is not peeping through the windows watching other people have a good time, but opening the door and enjoying the life that is inside those doors.

Now just because his happiness and my happiness have two different meanings, does that mean that his is wrong and mine is right, or mine is wrong and his is the right happiness?

My husband skips stones across the water. I jump in with both feet. He stays dry and I am soaking wet.

Together we have cruised the world four times for a total of 456 days. For me it was the joy of soaking in and absorbing the experiences and cultures of the world. For him it was the happiness of 1,368 gourmet meals aboard ship that were prepaid.

Think about it. In reality, if I forced him to always participate in my happiness he would be miserable.

I understand that because until I started to find and own my definition of happiness within the relationship, I felt denied of what I perceived was my deserved happiness.

It’s not all about him and it’s not all about me, it’s about sometimes window shopping and sometimes opening the doors. Sometimes skipping stones and sometimes jumping in with both feet. It’s about one heart with the left ventricle and the right ventricle beating at different times, yet in sync giving life to the whole.

So I guess what I’m saying is I am happy to fill the half empty glass he sees in life.

Copyright Sandra Hart 2014. All rights reserved. Myartisansway Press

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